Enemy of the State (Unrated Extended Cut) Review
It's not surprising that when Jerry Bruckheimer chooses to produce a conspiracy thriller, he concludes that the world, or at least one small part of it, really is out to get us. In this case, the target of various corrupt government forces is lawyer Robert Clayton Dean (Will Smith), who, whilst out shopping for lingerie for his wife's Christmas present, has a zip disc slipped into his pocket by hacker Daniel Zavitz (Jason Lee), which contains evidence of the murder of Congressman Phil Hammerslee (Jason Robards). Unsurprisingly, the man who is ultimately responsible for the murder, Thomas Reynolds (Jon Voight), wants this missing evidence in his hand - his personal reputation, not to mention a Telecommunications Security and Privacy Act that he's assisting through congress - rests on there being no proof of his involvement. When word comes of the existence of this disc, he puts an NSA team on not only finding it but also on destroying Dean's credibility.
As surveillance and security begin to have an impact on Dean's life - to destroy it effectively - he's forced out of home and, through the tapping of his phone, negative press reports in the papers and the cancellation of his banking cards, out of normal life. As the NSA close in on Dean and an associate and ex-girlfriend of his, Rachel Banks (Lisa Bonet), he is contacted by Brill (Gene Hackman), an ex-NSA agent himself who now works freelance. Shedding the bugs placed on him by the NSA, Dean goes underground but sensing that his bill is at risk, Reynolds steps up his campaign against Dean. But Dean, following a personal tragedy and with the help of Brill, refuses to go quietly...
We will, if Enemy of the State is to be believed, not only need to be wary of any electronic means of communication in the future but also ready to drop everything at the moment that the security agents will inevitably call. I, myself, have now been going to a gym regularly over the last year waiting for the moment when I will be required, like Jason Lee's Daniel Zavitz, to leap over rooftops, down stairways and through lingerie shops to escape from the UK's equivalent of the NSA. Such will be the concern over the leakiness of modern communications that, for all the promise of a more integrated future, we may revert to more secure, if a more primitive, methods of communication...freespace optics, handwritten letters, Post-It notes even. The best days of the Post Office may be yet to come.
Of course, there's no more reason to believe in Enemy of the State than there is to believe that a bite from a radioactive spider will endow you with superhuman powers. Where Crimson Tide brought us to the brink of a nuclear war and the end of civilisation via a tense standoff between Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington so Enemy of the State brings us to the end of personal freedoms with a high-pitched thriller that screams conspiracy from the highest of buildings. Realising this and that no conspiracy works like one attached to another, Bruckheimer and Scott temper their hysteria with the casting of Gene Hackman as Brill, thereby recalling his Harry Caul in Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation. Unlike that film, though, there's a moral certainty to Enemy of the State in that, as much as it's clearly the NSA who have taken against Smith and Hackman's characters, it's also made clear that it's Jon Voight's rogue agent who is at fault and not the actual agency.
And how it paints Voight as a bad egg, choosing to surround him with the pinched, creepy and just plain ugly Barry Pepper, Jake Busey, Scott Caan and Seth Green, as nasty a bunch of tight-assed military boys as Voight can pull together. Where the film falls down is in not offering the occasional head, pushing everyone into a major confrontation with a mob boss that, although a neat way to end the movie, isn't at all convincing. Indeed it all looks rather too neat, much like the use of aerial shots, satellite imagery and visuals for the telecoms-literate. As much as Scott's various gimmicks look terrific, one can't help but wonder how much as simply been invented to speed the story along, in much the same way as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which is executive produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, uses technology in the most far-fetched of manners to close each case. When, in a recent episode of CSI, they enhanced a single frame of grainy CCTV footage to read a barcode of an airline ticket, any claim the show ever had of being authentic vanished. And yet, CSI is as nothing to Enemy of the State. Anyone who's ever struggled to get a notebook out of a company, or indeed a network connection, will be quite amazed at the speed with which Jack Black manages to secure a spy satellite.
But story and logic be damned in this admittedly entertaining conspiracy thriller, which, through its decent cast and its rapid visuals, flatters to deceive. It is, one suspects, a very average film but by looking and sounding so very good and by saying most of the right things in roughly the right order, it's easy to ignore those nagging doubts as the film rushes by. Enemy of the State goes down easier than chocolate but the occasional viewing is more than enough.
Of the three Bruckheimer Extended Editions released today, Enemy of the State has enjoyed the best transfer onto DVD, looking sharper than Con Air and Crimson Tide as well as being less troubled by the kind of things that typically cause a problem - blacks, rapid cutting and smoke. However, given that the other two discs were something of a disappointment, this one simply comes up to par and what we ought to have gotten all along. The Dolby Digital 5.1 is, again, fine but nothing out of ordinary, sounding clean and offering a great many panning shots of satellites whizzing by with which to work out your system.
Deleted Scenes: Likely considered to not be of a high enough quality even to make this extended Special Edition, this features only two scenes, Jones Gets Bitten (43s) and Confrontation at the Limousine Service (2m07s), neither of which add anything to the film.
Making Of... (29m15s): Featuring director Tony Scott, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and the cast, this looks at the facts, questionable as they might be, behind the real-life NSA and how Enemy of the State had been planned to update surveillance and conspiracy stories for today's audiences. You won't be surprised to hear that as the opinion of Tony Scott, who seems to want to update all film conventions for today's audiences but it fits in well with this rather bland making-of, which talks up the film a great deal without creating anything of substance.
All Access: Showdown (13m20s): Based on the final scene in the film, or thereabouts, this goes behind the scenes to look at the shooting of it from the eyes of those involved in it and featuring whatever footage could be grabbed from behind the cast and crew. It is, I would imagine, great if you like looking at the backs of people's head but is, otherwise, really quite dull.
Finally, there is a Theatrical Trailer (2m32s) for Enemy of the State as well as a selection of the same for Con Air, Crimson Tide, Glory Road, Annapolis, Grey's Anatomy and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.
Once again, the Extended Edition tag comes to something rather worthless as, comparing the 131 minute running time from the IMDB to the 135 minutes of this version, there's really nothing very much that's been added. What seems obvious is a lunchtime meeting between Rachel and Robert early in the film where he attempts to convince her to let him meet Brill but, otherwise, there's little that stands out. And without a commentary, a DTS track or a second disc of extras, this isn't much of a special edition either. Not the least impressive of this week's Bruckheimer releases but stopping far short of what one might expect by now.